Sunday, February 3, 2013

4 comments NFL Playoffs Super Bowl Pick

Well, the NFL regular season and playoffs are winding down as quickly as we imagined they would. It's time for the over-hyped Super Bowl where the NFL champion will be crowned and either Joe Flacco or Colin Kaepernick will forever be defended by sports columnists as "a Super Bowl winning quarterback" no matter how terrible they may play in the future. It's one last chance for Ray Lewis to hog camera time as a Ravens player, one last chance for Joe Flacco to make an on-field demonstration that he needs a really, really large contract extension, one last chance to hear about the Harbaugh brothers for three hours, and one last chance for Alex Smith to stare bitterly on the sidelines as Jim Harbaugh's words that he wasn't trying to replace Smith with Peyton Manning this past offseason ring false as Harbaugh replaced Smith with Kaepernick at the first available opportunity.

(Jim Harbaugh) "Ouch, that looks like a mighty painful cut on your finger Alex. Better sit the rest of your 49ers career out."

(Alex Smith) "You mean "the rest of this drive," right?"

(Jim Harbaugh) "Yeah, sure, whatever. Kaepernick! It's finally your time! Hold still so I can take a picture of this momentous occasion."

It also appears Colin Kaepernick's biological mother has risen from the ashes in an effort to meet her son. She swears this has nothing to do with the fact Kaepernick is playing in the biggest game of his football career and wanting to meet him this upcoming week would provide her exposure, and if all goes right, a talk show in 10 years. It's all a coincidence and her sudden announcement she wants to meet Kaepernick isn't timed to when the amount of media exposure on him will be the greatest. It makes sense. There are 52 weeks in a year and Kaepernick has been alive for 25 years, so she has had 1300 weeks to urgently make contact with her son (well, being kind I will say seven years or 364 weeks if we say he wouldn't/couldn't have met her until he was 18 years old), but she chooses Super Bowl week to want to meet him. Sure, I believe the fact she wants to meet Kaepernick has nothing to do with the fact he is about to play in the biggest game of his life. It's just a coincidence. Sure.

It appears Bill Simmons is in the lead right now at 7-3. but Snarf and I are nipping at his heels and could conceivably win if we choose the right team to win the game and get a closer total number of points scored in the Super Bowl to break the tie. Don't get to leave the score in the comments with your pick because the total number of points in the Super Bowl is the tie-breaker in order to see who wins the ultimate prize of absolutely nothing or a box of Cheez-Its if the winner is especially insistent he win something. 

Here is Peter's pick.

Here is Bill's pick.

Here is the line I will be using:

San Francisco (-3.5) over Baltimore

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens

1. Let's the get the most important storyline out of the way first. The Harbaugh brothers have not spoken with each other all week reportedly. Very important to know this. No word on whether they don't have to speak because each knows how the other feels about their relationship. I say "no word" because I don't care about their relationship and I don't care who their parents are cheering for. I only care to watch the game. It kind of hit me earlier this week that either Colin Kaepernick or Joe Flacco will have won a Super Bowl by Sunday night. That's crazy to me. All the bashing of Flacco (with occasional complimenting) during this season by me will have looked really dumb in hindsight if he leads the Ravens past Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Colin Kaepernick. It probably looks stupid even if the Ravens don't beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Luck, Manning and Brady are only first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Luck especially will probably have an entirely new Hall of Fame created for him as he blows past all existing quarterbacking records during his NFL career. Since it is the most fun to talk about the quarterbacks, let me decide whether I have more faith in Kaepernick or Flacco to win the Super Bowl. I think part of me has more faith in Joe Flacco to play well in this game. I have two reasons for this:

a. Flacco is still playing for that new contract. He's going to get a new contract, but if he wins the Super Bowl then Flacco is going to have that much more bargaining position. Don't think Flacco isn't thinking in some way about his new contract. He's taken shit almost his entire career from those people (points at self) who think he isn't good enough to take the Ravens to the Super Bowl and win it. He's one win away from winning a Super Bowl and getting these haters off him for a couple of years. Flacco has said he considers himself an elite quarterback and now he can prove it on the biggest stage? I think he will be ready to play.

b. Kaepernick has done so well this year, I'm not entirely sure he grasps the entirety of this Super Bowl. It sounds bizarre to say it, but everything has come up roses for Kaepernick so far this year, and while I don't think he will be unprepared or not focused, he probably doesn't completely grasp how important for his career this game will end up being. I don't believe too much in a player "wanting" the Super Bowl more than another, but I think while Kaepernick is a competitor deep down he still has that young athlete naivety of saying "I'll be back here at some point." I think Flacco grasps he has to win this Super Bowl because he has been close before and more than just playing his position well determines if he will he gets back. Flacco knows dropped passes and missed field goals can stop him from making it back to the Super Bowl in the future.

2. Now that I have over-analyzed the quarterback position for each team, let me get on record as saying I still (yes, STILL) don't have complete faith in the Ravens defense. They were getting gashed in the running game earlier this year, albeit without Ray Lewis, but they were getting beaten hard by teams on the ground. They gave up 122 yards per game on the year. Here is a 10 game stretch during the middle of the season and the rushing yards given up in these games:

Kansas City- 214 yards
Dallas- 227 yards
Houston- 181 yards
Cleveland- 116 yards
Oakland- 72 yards (though they were missing their top 2 running backs)
Pittsburgh- 134 yards
San Diego- 91 yards
Pittsburgh- 96 yards
Washington- 179 yards
Denver- 163 yards

Now some of those teams are very good at running the ball, but that's my point. The 49ers are very good at running the football too. So the 49ers are capable of running the ball for 179, 181, or 163 yards on the Ravens like some of the good running teams did during the regular season. The 49ers started struggling last week and their response wasn't to start slinging the ball all over the field, but calm the hell down and start running the ball more effectively. Of course the 49ers did throw the ball, but they seemingly cut a lot of the bullshit and simply started pushing around the Falcons defense on the ground, which helped to open up the passing game. The Ravens aren't as terrible on the ground to really deserve to be 20th in the NFL in rushing defense, but it has been proven that even with Ray Lewis some teams can run the ball on them. I'm not sure I believe the Ravens can contain the 49ers running game, especially if the 49ers throw in some of the zone-read option plays that can work for them.

3. I like the 49ers defense, but I think Matt Ryan and the Falcons showed last week that good receivers can catch passes on the 49ers secondary. The Ravens do have a good set of receivers. Anquan Boldin is a physical receiver and this gave the 49ers secondary some problems last week when going up against Julio Jones. Boldin doesn't seem to have quite the speed that Jones has, but he also isn't letting very many passes in his direction drop of late. The Ravens also have Torrey Smith, who is an excellent deep threat and can be used to stretch the 49ers defense and allow Ray Rice or Dennis Pitta to get open in the middle of the field. The 49ers linebackers were having some trouble keeping up with Tony Gonzalez last week and while Ednnis Pitterson (Dennis Pitta/Ed Dickson as a hybrid player) aren't Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons also didn't have any running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield like Ray Rice is capable of doing. Throw in Bernard Pierce, who I irrationally like, running the ball and I can see how the Ravens offense under the non-blinking and unaffected direction of Jim Caldwell can find some matchups they like in the 49ers secondary. Of course running the ball on the 49ers isn't easy at all, and though Flacco has played well in the playoffs, the Ravens will still smile happily if they shut down Pierce/Rice on the ground and Flacco is forced to sling the ball around the field. We saw what happened last week against the Falcons once their battering ram running back (Michael Turner) got hurt and Matt Ryan had to sling the ball around more than he would like. Turnovers were created. Feelings were hurt and Atlanta was sad. This Ravens offense line is the key to this game in my opinion. If they hold up, the Ravens will win, if they can't get a push at the line or protect Flacco then the Ravens will lose. That should make Ravens fans feel good, that I think the most inconsistent unit for the Ravens is the biggest key to this game.

4. I can't seem to decide if Ed Reed or Ray Lewis will be more pumped for this game because it is going to be the last time at least one of them appear in the Super Bowl or they will be more even-keeled because of this. The Ravens secondary has held up very well in the playoffs against some really good passing teams. While I wouldn't call the 49ers a very good passing team, they have been more effective with Michael Crabtree suddenly becoming a #1 receiver and the constant threat that a rejuvenated and very motivated Randy Moss will decide to have a big game against the Ravens secondary. The Ravens are going to have to key on stopping the 49ers on the ground first and then worrying about the passing game. Running the ball is the bread-and-butter of the 49ers offense and it helps make everything else they want to do on offense more effective. So while the Ravens secondary has been playing well, Vernon Davis is still going to be a tough matchup and Greg Roman will want to get Davis matched up with a weak link in the Ravens linebacking group or secondary (ahem, Ray Lewis) in order to get him to control the middle of the field. This will leave the Ravens open to play-action and hopefully help the running game, which doesn't need much help in the first place. The Ravens have been good at taking away the big play in the playoffs and Colin Kaepernick certainly has a good enough arm to throw deep, so I think something will have to give. Hey, maybe Mario Manningham will make another excellent catch along the sidelines in the Super Bowl. Who knows?

5. This is a difficult matchup. I usually go into these previews knowing who I will pick before I start writing and this time I wasn't as sure. I don't particularly feel strongly one way or another who wins this game. Neither team really annoys me. All of my logic says that the 49ers are going to be able to run the ball and stop the run well enough to win this game. Kaepernick has played well since he took over the quarterback spot from Alex Smith due to his "concussion." Maybe the idea that Kaepernick doesn't grasp the entirety of what the Super Bowl is all about will help him, while the Ravens will feel pressure to win the game for Ray Lewis or Joe Flacco will feel pressure to be perfect in order to get an 8 year $120 million deal with $45 million guaranteed instead of a 6 year $80 deal with $30 million guaranteed in the form of a contract extension. So here I go choosing the winner with my gut feeling again. I really think the 49ers are going to be able to partly shut down the Ravens running game, but Ray Rice is kind of a pest and the Ravens will be able to use Rice effectively in the passing game by taking advantage of the fact there aren't many linebackers who can cover him. Both defenses are going to be motivated, but the 49ers were fortunate the Falcons let them back in the game last week, which is a mistake I don't think the Ravens defense or offense will allow to happen. I don't believe in "magic" or "meant to be" bullshit, but both teams have gotten somewhat fortunate to be at the point they are at. The Ravens converted a fourth-and-27 this year and wouldn't have even played the Patriots last week if it weren't for Jacoby Jones miraculously getting behind Raheem Moore in the Divisional Round. The Super Bowl appearance for both San Francisco and Baltimore required the Falcons and Broncos to both collapse at certain points in a playoff game. Kaepernick was given the starting quarterback job for this very game. On Thanksgiving night in 2011, these two teams played a low-scoring affair where the 49ers passing game didn't really take off under Alex Smith. Harbaugh doesn't want that to happen again. My gut feeling says the Ravens are going to try and jump on the 49ers, which is of course easier said than done, but I think they will take the lead in this game, not let the 49ers get back in the game by re-establishing the running game and take advantage of Kaepernick's relative inexperience to win the Super Bowl. Fuck it, I made it this far just guessing and going against what logic told me. What's one more time?

Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) over San Francisco 49ers 27-20


Snarf said...

Surprise surprise. I'm taking the ravens and the points.

Snarf said...

30 - 20

Larry Deacon, Attorney at Law said...

Looking at the current odds, an hour before kickoff, the Niners are up to -4.5 and the over/under is 47.5 or 48. If I were betting I would take the Ravens and go under the total. Gee, we are like three peas in a pod, presaging a high scoring Niners win.

Bengoodfella said...

It looks like we were all right. I was a little nervous at the end of the game that I would end up being wrong.